The reigning champions left the rink tonight with smiles on their faces. But the rising stars of Canadian pairs skating took another step toward possibly assuming their throne someday.

On the heels of a short program that could only be classified as unsatisfying, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford delivered a much cleaner free skate that was plenty good enough to land them a fifth straight Canadian title. Sure, there were a few bobbles on side-by-side jumps, but their 148.72 score for the free program eliminated any thought of an upset.

Duhamel and Radford’s overall total of 221.75 was 10.35 points better than that of Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau (211.40), whose entrancing free skate had crowd on its feet before their performance was done. The bronze went to Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch (204.22). All three teams qualified for the World Championships.

For Duhamel and Radford, this was anything but a Championship cakewalk. “That was hard. The teams before us skated really well, and they put out big numbers,” said Duhamel. “We had to do our job. We couldn’t melt down. We couldn’t have a performance like yesterday (again) today. That’s a step in the right direction, going out there feeling the way we did and performing the way we did.”

Added Radford: “We needed this skate on two different levels — in this time frame and looking long-term to Worlds. We felt a lot more in control and in the right mindset. As Meagan said, we’ve always had our best skates in pressure situations. Even though it’s more uncomfortable beforehand, it brings out the best in us. I almost have to thank Julianne and Charlie for having such a great skate because it really pushed us.”

Séguin and Bilodeau did indeed have a great skate, the kind of performance that has them thinking maybe their day to be on top of the podium isn’t that far off. “We always reach higher and higher,” said Bilodeau. “It’s fun to see our consistency in competitions. For us, it means that everything is possible. We are looking at the champions, and we want to be closer and closer and one day be in front of them.”

For Ilyushechkina and Moscovitch, their second Canadians together was another step forward and, despite a few errors, they were a solid third. “We went through a lot of ups and downs to get to this point, and we came out on top of the rollercoaster,” said Moscovitch. “It was not without hard work and patience and perseverance, and I’m proud of us and our whole team behind us. Today was great. We enjoyed every minute. It wasn’t perfect, there were a couple of little things. But we did some really great things out there that we’re really proud of … we’re really happy with it.”